Queensland Coral Reef Fin Fish Fishery

Ministerial Decision
Andrew McNee, Delegate of the Minister for the Environment and Heritage, 16 November 2005

The Hon Chris Cummins MP
Acting Minister for Primary Industries and Fisheries
GPO Box 46
BRISBANE QLD 4001

Dear Minister

I am writing to you as Delegate of the Minister for the Environment and Heritage in relation to the assessment of the Coral Reef Fin Fish Fishery under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act). In June 2005 the Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries (DPI&F) submitted the document entitled Ecological Assessment of the Queensland Coral Reef Fin Fish Fishery for assessment under the EPBC Act.

The submission has been assessed for the purposes of the protected species provisions of Part 13 and the wildlife trade provisions of Part 13A of the EPBC Act.

I am pleased to advise that assessment of the fishery is now complete. The assessment report will be available on the Department of the Environment and Heritage website at: http://www.deh.gov.au/coasts/fisheries/qld/coral-reef-fin-fish/index.html.

I am satisfied that the management arrangements for the fishery require that all reasonable steps are taken to ensure that protected species are not injured or killed and the level of interactions with such species in the fishery is not likely to adversely affect the conservation status of protected species or the survival and recovery of listed threatened species. Hence, the management arrangements for the Coral Reef Fin Fish Fishery meet the requirements of Part 13 of the EPBC Act and I propose to accredit the management arrangements accordingly. Accreditation will ensure that individual fishers operating in accordance with the management arrangements are not required to seek permits in relation to interactions with protected species in Commonwealth waters.

I am satisfied that the operation of the fishery is consistent with the objects of the wildlife trade provisions of Part 13A of the EPBC Act. I am also satisfied that it is unlikely to be detrimental to the survival or conservation status of any taxon to which the fishery operation relates, or threaten any relevant ecosystem. The fishery is relatively well managed and operates under an adaptable and precautionary regime capable of controlling, monitoring and enforcing the level of take from the fishery. Performance against the Australian Government Guidelines for the Ecologically Sustainable Management of Fisheries is adequate, however there are a number of issues that need to be addressed to contain environmental risks in the longer term. Hence, I propose to declare the fishery an approved Wildlife Trade Operation (WTO), under Part 13A of the EPBC Act. This declaration would allow the export of product from the fishery for the next three years. I will make the declaration subject to the conditions at Attachment A.

I also propose to include product from this WTO fishery on the List of Exempt Native Specimens so that exporters would not require EPBC Act export permits. The fishery would continue to operate as a WTO for the period of the declaration (3 years) and all WTO conditions would continue to apply.

The management regime aims to ensure that fishing is conducted in a manner that does not lead to over-fishing and for fishing operations to be managed to minimise their impact on the structure, productivity, function and biological diversity of the ecosystem. On balance, the fishery is being managed in an ecologically sustainable manner and is working to address existing problems and to minimise environmental risks.

While there are some environmental risks associated with this fishery, I believe that DPI&F is committed to addressing these issues and is already taking proactive steps in some areas. Officers from our two departments have discussed key areas requiring ongoing and increased attention. I understand that they have agreed to a number of recommended actions, focusing on addressing key issues, to be implemented before the next Australian Government review of the fishery. The recommendations (Attachment B) have been an important factor in my decision to declare the fishery a WTO and I look forward to receiving your confirmation that they will be implemented.

I would like to thank you for the constructive way in which your officials have approached this assessment.

Yours sincerely

[signed Andrew McNee- 16 November 2005]

Andrew McNee
Delegate of the Minister for the Environment and Heritage

16 November 2005

Attachment A

Conditions on the approved Wildlife Trade Operation declaration for the Coral Reef Finfish Fishery

  1. Operation of the fishery will be carried out in accordance with the Fisheries (Coral Reef Fin Fish) Management Plan 2003 in force under the Queensland Fisheries Act 1994 and the Queensland Fisheries Regulation 1995.
  2. DPI&F will inform the Department of the Environment and Heritage (DEH) of any intended amendments to the Coral Reef Fin Fish Fishery management regime that may affect the sustainability of the target species, or negatively impact on bycatch, protected species or the ecosystem.
  3. Reports to be produced and presented to DEH annually, and to include:
    • information sufficient to allow assessment of the progress of DPI&F in implementing the recommendations made in the Assessment of the Coral Reef Fin Fish Fishery;
    • a description of the status of the fishery and catch and effort information;
    • a statement of the performance of the fishery against objectives, performance indicators and measures once developed; and
    • research undertaken or completed relevant to the fishery.

Attachment B

Recommendations to DPI&F on the ecologically sustainable management of the Coral Reef Fin Fish Fishery (CRFF)

The CRFF is a relatively well-managed fishery with a range of management measures to promote the ecologically sustainable harvesting of species from the fishery. Management measures include a Total Allowable Catch and Individual Transferable Quotas, limited entry, access limited by area endorsements, designated species, minimum and, in some cases maximum, size limits, gear and boat restrictions, prohibition on the take of some species and temporal spawning closures. Stocks are not currently overfished and management arrangements provide the basis to ensure that fishing is conducted in a manner that will not lead to over-fishing.

While the fishery is relatively well managed, a number of risks and uncertainties that must be managed to ensure that their impacts are minimised have been identified. The following recommendations aim to address these risks and uncertainties. DPI&F should action these recommendations before the next review in 2008 or within the timeframe specified in individual recommendations.

Recommendations

  1. DPI&F to inform DEH of any intended amendments to the management arrangements that may affect sustainability of the target species or negatively impact on bycatch, protected species or the ecosystem.
  2. From 2006, DPI&F to report publicly on the status of the CRFF on an annual basis including explicitly reporting against each performance measure.
  3. DPI&F to reassess the review events in the Fisheries (Coral Reef Fin Fish) Management Plan 2003 to ensure their appropriateness, that they are quantitative where possible and they are consistent with the application of operational objectives for the fishery. By December 2006, DPI&F is to establish revised objectives, performance measures and indicators for bycatch, protected species and impacts on the ecosystem.
  4. DPI&F to monitor the status of the fishery in relation to the review events and performance measures. Within three months of becoming aware that a review event has been triggered, DPI&F to finalise a clear timetable for the implementation of appropriate management responses.
  5. DPI&F to complete a compliance risk assessment for the CRFF by mid 2006 and implement a risk-based compliance strategy by December 2006 taking into account risks associated with non-compliance with:
    • catch, possession, size and gear limits;
    • reporting of protected species interactions;
    • area and fishery closures; and
    • quota limits.
  6. DPI&F to implement a program to validate logbook data by June 2006. DPI&F to ensure that the program enables collection of information on the composition of 'other coral reef fin fish' sufficient for DPI&F to monitor and respond to changes in the composition of this group.
  7. By end 2006, DPI&F to develop a robust and regular fishery assessment process, that provides a basis for management decisions which are precautionary and recognise the uncertainty and level of risk. The assessment process will examine the ecological sustainability of the take of Coral trout (Plectropomus leopardus) and Red-throat emperor (Lethrinus miniatus) using robust stock assessments.
  8. Within 18 months, DPI&F to undertake a risk assessment to identify 'other coral reef fin fish' most at risk from the fishery. Actions seeking to reduce risk to be implemented as appropriate within a further 12 months.
  9. DPI&F to develop a process to improve estimates of recreational take and factor this into stock assessments and management controls to ensure overall catch levels are sustainable.
  10. DPI&F to reassess the appropriateness of the total allowable commercial catches for the main target species and 'other coral reef fin fish', taking into account the outcomes of the stock and risk assessments for CRFF species by end 2007.
  11. DPI&F to review current management arrangements and ensure that adequate protection is being given to spawning stocks of the main target species.
  12. DPI&F to use the results of stock and risk assessments, and research projects, to review the need for specific bycatch management measures and introduce effective and appropriate methods to reduce bycatch, or increase survivability, as needed.
  13. DPI&F to continue to work with industry and other management agencies to reduce the impact of the CRFF on the broader ecosystem, including impacts relating to anchoring.